Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Teachers can close gender gap in classroom leadership during medical school, study finds

Date:
July 29, 2010
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
A new study shows that female medical students volunteer for leadership roles in the classroom significantly less than their male peers. Subtle pep talks from teachers can even out the playing field.

Half of U.S. first-year medical students are female, yet a new UCLA study shows that they volunteer for leadership roles in the classroom significantly less than their male counterparts. Subtle encouragement from teachers, however, can even out the playing field by boosting female students' willingness to identify themselves as leaders.

"People assume that if you have parity in the numbers of men and women training to become physicians, then everything else will fall into place. Surprisingly, we found that wasn't the case," observed lead author Nancy Wayne, professor of physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Published in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Academic Medicine, the findings suggest a simple yet effective approach to cultivating female leadership in medicine and other fields.

"We're talking about a group of smart, talented women who worked very hard to get to this point in their academic careers," said Wayne. "Yet under typical circumstances, they do not feel comfortable in a leadership role. Our study suggests this is something that teachers have the power to change."

As medical school curriculum has shifted away from large lectures to small peer-led discussion groups, medical students are expected to take on leadership roles as part of the learning process.

Wayne and her colleagues performed two studies, one in 2008 and another in 2009, to identify whether leadership of the classroom's small groups slanted toward one gender, and whether teacher instruction had an effect on closing the gap.

In the 2008 study, 144 first-year medical students attended six small-group sessions in a course on reproductive physiology taught by Wayne. The class included 75 women and 69 men.

Each session featured five tables of four or five students for a total of 30 groups during the course. Students chose their own seats. Each table presented one of five case-based problems for discussion.

Wayne gave the students 15 minutes to discuss the problem as a group. Each group was asked for a volunteer leader to guide discussion and present the group's answers in front of the room to the rest of the class.

"We were surprised to see that significantly fewer women than men volunteered to lead the discussion groups," said Wayne. Although more than half of the class was women, female students volunteered to lead only 10 of the 30 small groups.

In the 2009 study, the class was split in two, and then each half was divided into 15 groups. All 30 of the groups heard the same instructions as the class in the 2008 study.

Half of the groups, however, also received a subtle intervention. After explaining the exercise, Wayne gave a brief pep talk emphasizing the importance of exploring a leadership role in the protected environment of the classroom.

"I explained that if you've never volunteered to be a group leader in other situations, this is a safe setting to try it out. It doesn't matter what your background is, what your undergraduate major was or whether you're male or female -- being a group leader is an important experience for everyone," said Wayne.

The first half of the class contained 43 women and 34 men, yet only four women volunteered to lead among the 15 small groups.

In contrast, the half of the class that heard Wayne's pep talk split evenly between the number of female and male leaders. Many of the leaders were students volunteering for the first time.

"Our findings show that how we instruct our students can strongly influence whether we reinforce or eliminate gender bias in class leadership," said Wayne. "Our study also demonstrates that this bias will persist unless it is consistently addressed. Targeted intervention during medical school could help reduce the gender gap that limits women's careers."

The authors chose the subject because of the strong link between perceived leadership ability and professional advancement in academic medicine. Wayne pointed out a correlation between female students' discomfort with leadership early in their medical careers and the disproportionately lower number of women working in senior roles in academic medicine.

"The increase in female participation at the entry level of academic medicine has not translated into improved progress in the numbers of women who are tenured faculty, full professors, departmental chairs or deans," she said. "When women are uneasy in leadership roles, be it in school or later in their careers, we are disenfranchising half of our population that has the potential to make significant contributions to the medical profession."

Wayne's coauthors included Sebastian Uijtdehaage and Michelle Vermillion. Both coauthors work for the Center for Educational Development and Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, which provided funding to support the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. The original article was written by Elaine Schmidt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wayne, Nancy L.; Vermillion, Michelle; Uijtdehaage, Sebastian. Gender Differences in Leadership Amongst First-Year Medical Students in the Small-Group Setting. Academic Medicine, 2010; 85 (8): 1276-1281 DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e5f2ce

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Teachers can close gender gap in classroom leadership during medical school, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100728193802.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2010, July 29). Teachers can close gender gap in classroom leadership during medical school, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100728193802.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Teachers can close gender gap in classroom leadership during medical school, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100728193802.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins